There is a discussion in the Legislature of revising the term limits law in Maine. Our current law allows individuals to serve upto four consecutive terms in either the Maine Senate or the Maine House. It also allows that once the four consecutive terms are completed, the individual can simply run for office in the other chamber, then return after a two year term in the new seat, take a two year break(one term) and then run again.
This law was originally put into place after the ballot box scandal that took place when John Martin was Speaker of the Maine House. The bill essentially targeted Martin as he had been Speaker of the House for over 20 years and those who pushed the law through a “people’s referendum” wanted Martin gone.
Fast forward 15 years and you will see that the term limit law has basically not had its intended effect. John Martin, first elected to the Maine House in 1964, has served in the Legislature for all but two years since 1964. Clearly, the target of this legislation missed its mark.
The fact is, term limits are nothing more than a “knee-jerk” reaction to a specific issue disguised as a solution. Personally, I find it amazing that those who claim to love the intent of the Founders of this Country the most and who want “government out of their lives” are some of the first ones to use the government to solve their issues.
The problem with our electoral process is not that we need artifical term limits that limit the options of we the people and who we choose to elect, we don’t. We need informed voters to make informed decisions about the most pressing issues of the day, in Maine and America. Our election process is sound. We do not need to alter the process in an attempt to accomplish a goal. This approach is no different that those who want to get rid of guns saying that we must ban all guns because a person or two acted in an irresponsible manner.
The new proposal before the Legislature would not end term limits, but rather merely alter an un-necessary restriction. The new proposal would change the Legislative terms from two years to four years and then restrict those elected to serving two consective terms, which means eight years in office with fewer options for we the people to hold our elected folks accountable. Currently, both Houses of the Maine Legislature are filled with two year elected terms. That means 4 times during their potential eight years of consective service, we the people have the opportunity to hold these folks accountable for their elected actions. The new proposal would cut down that opportunity by half.
Let’s face it. We do not need “knee-jerk” reactions to real issues and then pretend they are solutions. Artificial term limits WILL NOT solve the problem of electing in-effective politicians to office. Creating a mass of informed voters who will go to the polls and vote based on issues WILL solve the problem of electing ineffective people to public office.
At the end of the day, we do have natural term limits. They are called elections. That is the way our Founders intended it and the way it should be. I hope the Legislature votes this measure down.